KARACHI: The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) on Wednesday vowed to resist the government move to grant autonomy to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) aimed at targeting inflation rather than economic growth, calling it an agenda of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The claim of the opposition party came from the top when senior party members said the leadership was convinced about the “ill intentions” behind the fresh initiative and it would reach out to every opposition party for a joint strategy against the government move.

“How can any patriotic and pro-Pakisatan individual support this bill?” said the senior PML-N leader Muhammad Zubair, who’s also the spokesman for party chief Miaz Nawaz Sharif.

“We can’t allow the government [to move this bill] in the name of economic reforms. The people are not aware of what the consequences this bill be. This would snatch their freedom.” He said that the PML-N had serious reservations about the proposed bill as it was evident from the draft that the SBP would have even less powers than the central bank of India before 1947.

In order to meet IMF conditions for revival of its stalled programme, the federal cabinet earlier this month cleared for introduction in parliament three crucial bills, including the one allowing unprecedented autonomy to the State Bank of Pakistan to target inflation, rather than economic growth.

Under the SBP amendment bill, the authorised capital of the central bank would be Rs500bn and the SBP board would be empowered to increase the authorised capital through a resolution subject to the government’s consent. The paid-up capital of the SBP will be Rs100bn to be made up through issuance of bonus shares by capitalising profits or general reserve or through subscription of shares in cash by the federal government. The board with a prior approval by the government will be able to increase paid-up capital as well. With information about the proposed bill still unclear, the authorities have started facing serious criticism from the opposition parties and the PML-N has finally decided to challenge the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government on a new front.

“Believe me it’s a dangerous thing,” said Mr Zubair. “We know that the IMF and the World Bank have been pressing for quite some time for a bill to be passed in the name of the SBP’s autonomy. But let me tell you that if this bill is passed, the prime minister, the government, the finance minister and the parliament would lose all control over the SBP.”

He said the bill would allow the SBP and its governor to decide whatever they saw well in the name of Pakistan’s economic policy. The SBP would become a superior autonomous organisation which would not be not answerable for anything, he added.

“They [SBP and its governors] will just inform the parliament about any decision they make and that too only if they want,” said the PML-N leader. “The parliament will not be able to call them. They will inform annually about what their policies will be and no one will be able to ask them who is responsible for these policies.” He said his party would use every legal, democratic and constitutional forum to raise voice against the government plan and make every possible move against this move.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2021

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